My Third Grader at Hillside worked his charm on me last week, begging to be allowed to bring home a pair of chicks or ducklings for the weekend that his class had been watching grow from pre-hatching days, courtesy of a local farm. Once the little birds get to what he aptly calls the ‘leggy’ stage, they’re sent back to the farm, where I’m sure they are allowed to feed and run freely and live a long and carefree life, safe from insinuations of tarragon or plum sauce, or whispers of the dreaded word, “roast.”
“They’re really easy to look after,” my 9-year-old assured me, “and there will be many lessons learned.”
He was right about the latter and I dearly hope he learned as much as I did.
Lesson #1: What goes in must come out. A lot. The minute we walked through our door with the adorable, fuzzy 3-day-old house guests, my son announces, “Oh, by the way, all they do is poo and pee the whole time.” No kidding.
Lesson #2: Never switch your NYT subscription to an online one the week you adopt ducklings. I had to rummage around for old copies of the NYT, stopping short of my souvenir ones of President Obama’s inauguration. Those duckies had plenty of riveting reading material by some of the country’s top journalists all weekend.
Lesson #3: Don’t be a chicken about handling ducklings. I had no idea this would be challenging. They’re not chubby or ‘solid’ like young cats or pups. Indeed, you can feel every rib under all that blanket of yellow down – a bit of a surprise if you’re not used to it. So my son (an expert bird handler by now) had the job of transferring the ducks to a box while I cleaned out every last detail of their post-digested oatmeal and grits. About four or five times a day.
Lesson #4: Ducks like their oatmeal with water
Lesson #5: As much as drinking it, they enjoy sitting in their drinking water, however small the bowl
Lesson #6: Ducklings snuggle and sleep together. They are very sweet this way
Lesson #7: Ducklings do not quack. They cheep, and they do this quietly.
Lesson #8: Ducklings grow on you. No matter how much time and trouble their toilet habits caused, we all miss their quiet, snuggly, sweet sunshine-yellow presence!